Earwax: A Potential Sticky Situation

December 12, 2018 |

Diagram of Earwax Blockage

What it is:

Cerumen is the medical term for earwax.  Earwax is classified as a yellowish waxy substance produced in the ear canals of humans and other mammals. The body uses earwax as protection from bacteria, fungi, insects, and water in the ear canal. It is also assisted in cleaning and lubricating the skin of the ear canal.

Where does it come from:

Some people can produce more earwax than others. Also wearing hearing aids or listening to ear buds can cause a person to create more earwax than normal. Some signs and symptoms of earwax blockage or impaction are: sudden or partial hearing loss, ear pressure or fullness, ringing in the ears, and/or ear pain. Earwax impaction could also be caused at home if you consistently use q-tips or cotton swabs; you might be pushing earwax further into your ear canal causing the blockage to occur. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms it might be time to consult your primary care doctor, an Otolaryngologist, or an Audiologist to determine if wax is the cause.


Earwax impaction can be easy to treat. Once it has been determined that your symptoms are from earwax impaction; your doctor may use irrigation, suction, or a curette (a small, curved instrument) to remove the wax. Earwax removal is usually tolerated well by patients and the hearing often returns quickly after removal. If your ears are prone to excessive earwax impaction the doctor will either set up a 3 month, 6 month, or a yearly schedule for wax removal appointments; depending on the amount of earwax your body produces. The doctor may also give you at home tips to try to reduce your earwax impaction; these are all different depending on the person.


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